DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
14 January 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Guest at Noon
Our guest, in just a short while, will be Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of the UN’s Children’s Fund, who will be joining us to discuss her recent visit to the tsunami-hit areas and the ongoing relief effort.
**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
I have a statement on the Middle East:
“The Secretary-General condemns the Palestinian terror attack that caused the death of six Israeli civilians and injury to four others at the Karni crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip yesterday evening. He wishes to express his deepest condolences to the families of those killed and injured.
“The Secretary-General hopes that this terrible incident will not be allowed to undermine the recent positive steps taken by both parties. He also calls on the new Palestinian leadership to make all possible attempts to bring to justice the organizers and perpetrators of this attack.
“The Secretary-General emphasizes again that violence cannot provide a solution to the conflict, and that only through negotiation can peace be achieved.”
Copies of the statement are available upstairs.
**Secretary-General in Mauritius
On his last day in Mauritius, the Secretary-General told the press that he has been heartened by what he has seen in terms of the response to the tsunami, with “communities pulling together to restore their livelihoods”.
He added that he is happy that his call for a global early warning system has been enthusiastically supported at the Conference on Small Island Developing States that wrapped up today. But the Secretary-General added that the humanitarian crises in other parts of the world should not be forgotten. We have his opening statement available upstairs and the Q&A part of the press conference should be available shortly.
The Secretary-General today also conducted bilateral meetings with leaders gathered for the Mauritius Conference, including with the Presidents of Madagascar and Equatorial Guinea.
In the afternoon, he and his wife Nane planted a green mangrove at a botanical garden, where they met with five Mauritian religious leaders, who discussed signs of stigma and prejudice against people suffering from AIDS. The Secretary-General told reporters afterwards that the leaders were committed to helping people living with AIDS, “to show compassion and sensitivity and not to cast them aside”.
Turning to the Conference itself, as you know, it concluded its work today. Governments adopted a Strategy to implement the Programme of Action and an accompanying political statement, called the Mauritius Declaration.
The Conference was attended by 18 Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Prime Ministers, as well as some 60 ministers and nearly 2,000 delegates, civil society representatives and journalists from 114 countries.
We have more on the Conference upstairs.
On Iraq, in his press conference, the Secretary-General spoke to reporters today about the elections in Iraq, saying, “It is clear that the vast majority of Iraqis are eager to exercise their democratic right to vote. But it is equally obvious that the conditions in which the elections are being held are far from ideal.”
He added that “the elections must be as inclusive as possible” if they are to contribute positively to the country’s political transition. He emphasized the need for outreach, especially to Sunni Arabs. The Secretary-General encouraged all Iraqis to exercise their democratic right to vote, saying that Iraq needs “as broad a base as possible for a successful transition”.
Asked if he was concerned about the legitimacy of the Iraqi elections, he said, “We need to see how things evolve”. He said that there would be attempts at intimidation, and there has been regrettable violence, but he also noted that efforts are being made to pull in as many people as possible.
Also on Iraq, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, is in Beirut today for talks with Iraqi political figures based in Lebanon, as well as with Lebanese officials.
Mr. Qazi, who is accompanied by his new Deputy, Staffan de Mistura, met with Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud for a detailed discussion of the situation In Iraq.
In remarks to the press after the meeting, Qazi stressed the need for all Iraqis to participate in the elections, which he said represent a milestone in the political process.
And we have more on his visit available upstairs.
Turning to the Security Council, they just concluded closed consultations this morning, where they heard a briefing by Jean-Pierre Halbwachs, the Secretary-General’s Representative on the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB) for Iraq, which, as you know, is the body that is to monitor and audit the Development Fund for Iraq.
Council members discussed the letter that the Secretary-General transmitted to the Security Council on the review of the IAMB’s work over the past year.
**UNHCR - DRC Refugees in Uganda
Turning to Uganda, the Office of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that several thousand Congolese refugees have arrived in Uganda in recent days, saying that they’re fleeing fighting in the Ituri region of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo.
They are estimated to number up to 7,000; and the majority are women and children, many in poor health and in immediate need of assistance.
And we have more upstairs from UNHCR.
**Secretary-General on Monday
For your planning purposes on Monday, the Secretary-General will be back in the building. He is scheduled to receive the report of the Millennium Project at noon right here, in Room 226.
After comments by the Secretary-General, Millennium Project Director Jeffrey Sachs will discuss the report, which, as you know, is entitled “Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals”.
Also addressing the press will be former President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo, one of the Task Force leaders of the Millennium Project; and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo.
The Millennium Project was commissioned by the Secretary-General to propose the best strategies for meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals.
One more thing for Monday, prior to the press event in 226, the Secretary-General is expected to be available to take a few questions on a range of subjects, as he comes into the building, as he usually does when he returns from an overseas trip.
So that will be Monday morning. We’ll let you know exactly what time.
**The Week Ahead at the United Nations
And today thankfully being Friday, we have “The Week Ahead” for you.
That’s it from me. Yes, Mark?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Two questions. One, the UN now says it’s getting more transparent and the rest of it. So, could you put Halbwachs in front of us to actually talk about what the UN thinks of the IAMB report, because he consistently refuses to speak to anybody? The second question is what on earth does it mean to say that the majority of Iraqis want this election but conditions aren’t ideal? I mean, what is the message actually being sent here? What’s the point? What is the input here? I don’t really understand. It sounds a little bit...(Interrupted).
Associate Spokesman: Well, the message that is clear from what we know; from the polls that we’ve seen that Iraqis do want to participate in the electoral process, the majority of them do want to participate in the electoral process. Obviously the security conditions are less than ideal, and that’s a fact.
Question: But is the UN saying anything here or is it just basically hiding by a nice neat little balanced formula that’s essentially meaningless and doesn’t input into any of the tough decisions as to whether you go ahead, when, where and how?
Associate Spokesman: Well, you know, whether or not we’re hiding; whether what we say is meaningless, that is up to you to decide. The fact is, and remains, that the electoral process is Iraqi–owned and it is their decision whether or not to go ahead and have these elections. The Transitional Administrative Law is clear that the only body that can adjust the date of the elections is the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq, full stop.
So, I don’t know what else you would like me to expand on. Thank you.
Question: Can you tell us a little bit more about the search for someone to take charge of the communications of the UN from Washington?
Associate Spokesman: Sorry?
Question: The UN is looking for a Washington official to take care of its communications. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Associate Spokesman: The job that you’re referring to is the head of the UN information office in Washington. We do have an acting Director for the time being and we’re looking for a full time Director for that office.
Question: Do you have a deadline?
Associate Spokesman: No. We’re actively looking for someone to fill that job?
Question: Do you have anyone in mind?
Associate Spokesman: I think, as you consider a number of people, we’ll be ready to announce when we do have someone.
Question: I don’t know whether I should ask you or I should ask the UN Relief Coordinator. Have you been able to resolve this thing in Indonesia about access to Banda Aceh and this issue of military escorts in the north, and so forth?
Associate Spokesman: I think we’ll put that question to the Relief Coordinator, unless Ms. Bellamy maybe has something to add on that. But, we’ll try to get an answer for you.
[To Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)]: Welcome.
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